For all their stated stability, the Pacers are veering toward a shakeup.
Unsatisfied with Indiana’s contract offer, Lance Stephenson is looking elsewhere. The Pacers, as constructed, can neither offer him more and stay out of the luxury tax nor replace him easily.
But maybe Larry Bird would make a bold move to radically change the team’s makeup. Getting Goran Dragic would certainly qualify.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
That’s a rather ominous “yet,” isn’t it?
I just can’t see it foretelling an actual trade.
Dragic is an excellent player, and the Pacers could definite improve at point guard. With Paul George the franchise player, David West entrenched and Stephenson still in the air, George Hill is definitely upgradable.
I have to think the Pacers want to build a deal around Roy Hibbert – a worse player on a worse contract than Dragic. That could clear the room to re-sign Stephenson, but it’s difficult to see the Suns going for the deal. Beyond the barely desirable Solomon Hill, Indiana lacks young assets to sweeten the deal. The Pacers have all their own future first rounders, but those are slated for the 20s for the foreseeable future and don’t hold much value.
I wouldn’t read too much into the Pacers’ play for Dragic.
I would read a littlie into their desire to do something bold.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.